Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force, recently addressed skepticism among the Black community regarding the safety of a COVID-19 vaccine, noting that one the vaccine candidate developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna was worked on by an African American woman, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.
"The very vaccine that's one of the two that has absolutely exquisite levels - 94 to 95% efficacy against clinical disease and almost 100% efficacy against serious disease that are shown to be clearly safe - that vaccine was actually developed in my institute's vaccine research center by a team of scientists led by Dr. Barney Graham and his close colleague, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, or Kizzy Corbett," Fauci said on Tuesday, according to The Hill.
“So, the first thing you might want to say to my African American brothers and sisters is that the vaccine that you’re going to be taking was developed by an African American woman. And that is just a fact," Fauci added.
Corbett is the National Institute of Health’s top scientist for COVID-19 vaccine research and was also part of the team that worked with pharmaceutical company Moderna to develop its messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine that is being reviewed for emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this month.
“I would say to people who are vaccine-hesitant that you’ve earned the right to ask the questions that you have around these vaccines and this vaccine development process,” Corbett recently said on the CNN podcast "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction."
“Trust, especially when it has been stripped from people, has to be rebuilt in a brick-by-brick fashion,” Corbett said. “And so, what I say to people firstly is that I empathize, and then secondly is that I’m going to do my part in laying those bricks. And I think that if everyone on our side, as physicians and scientists, went about it that way, then the trust would start to be rebuilt,” she added.
Although Black Americans and other people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the novel coronavirus compared to white people, according to data by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies suggest that there is skepticism of COVID-19 vaccines in the Black community.
A Pew research study completed in June showed that while 54% of Black adults said they would definitely or most likely get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available, 44% said they would not.
“Black Americans have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, accounting for a disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths. At the same time, they stand out from other racial and ethnic groups in their attitudes toward key health care questions associated with the outbreak. In particular, Black adults are more hesitant to trust medical scientists, embrace the use of experimental medical treatments and sign up for a potential vaccine to combat the illness,” Pew concluded in its report.
Another study released by the COVID Collaborative, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and UnidosUS also found that there is a “significant majority" of Black and Latino Americans who don’t trust the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Harvard University's TH Chan School of Public Health. The survey indicated that only 14% of Black Americans and 34% of Latino Americans "mostly or completely trust" that a vaccine will be safe.
Both Moderna and Pfizer have completed phase 3 clinical trials of their vaccines and have applied for emergency approval for their drugs from the FDA.
On Thursday, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was formally recommended for FDA authorization by an independent panel consisting of scientific experts, infectious disease doctors and statisticians, according to the New York Times.
The FDA is expected to formally authorize the vaccine within days, and the initial shipment of 6.4 million doses will leave warehouses within 24 hours of being cleared by the agency, federal officials told the Times.
The Trump administration on Friday announced that it would purchase an additional 100 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, bringing the federal government’s total order from the company to 200 million doses.